The State is today expected to respond to a request by CCC legislator Job Sikhala for the media to be allowed to record and live stream proceedings of his ongoing trial where he is charged with obstructing the course of justice.
Normally this is not permitted, with the media entitled to be present, as are all members of the public, and allowed to take notes. But no one has the right to take photographs or transmit from the court room, unless special permission is granted.
This is rarely sought or granted.
Sikhala, through his lawyers, argues that there is not enough space in the courtroom to seat all who wish to exercise their right of public access.
Mr Oscar Madhume and Mr Zebadiah Bofu, appearing for the State, yesterday asked for time to prepare their response to Sikhala’s application to have the trial proceedings streamed live by the media.
Sikhala’s charges arose after he allegedly recorded and posted on social media a message that the State claimed was aimed at hindering investigations into the kidnapping and murder of Ms Moreblessing Ali in Nyatsime area in June last year.
This is a separate trial from that involving his charges of inciting public violence, although some of the evidence is common to both and they both revolve around statements he made over Ms Ali’s abduction and murder allegedly by a former boyfriend.
In the obstruction case, through his lawyers Mr Jeremiah Bamu and Harrison Nkomo, Sikhala says his application was in accordance with Section 69 of the Constitution. He claimed that his prosecution has attracted immense public interest and his constituents were eager to follow the trial proceedings.
“The whole purpose of this application is to ensure public access to the proceedings and promote free expression and freedom of the media,” said Mr Bamu.
He submitted in court that the State will not suffer any prejudice since it was a public court hearing.
Mr Bamu claimed that live streaming of the trial proceedings would enhance transparency in the manner the hearing would be handled.
“It has drawn public interest and we are requesting the facilitation of media reporting that is complete, accurate and effective,” he said.
Mr Bamu told the court that Sikhala has a huge following in his Zengeza West constituency, which makes it difficult for the courtroom at Harare Magistrates Courts to accommodate everyone.
He argued that live streaming the trial proceedings would afford those who cannot be accommodated in the courtroom to follow the trial.
Mr Bamu also said that Sikhala has relatives outside the country, including his daughter studying in Poland, who are also eager to follow the trial proceedings.
He also indicated to the court that they want to amend Sikhala’s defence outline after being furnished with further documents to prepare for their trial.
Harare regional magistrate Mrs Marehwanazvo Gofa is presiding over the case.
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